Lucas’ seat gets ALP talking. The Labor pre-selection battle for the Queensland state seat of Lytton, getting vacated by retiring deputy premier Paul Lucas at the next election, looks like being a cracker. According to one hack: “One left faction frontrunner is off to a shaky start after threatening to have an entire branch thrown out of the party for absurdly spurious reasons. Left faction heavyweights have been left scratching their heads and realise they might have a bit of a dilemma on their hands.”

Gavin King haunted in LNP run. Cairns Post editor-at-large Gavin King resigned last week to run for the Liberal-National Party at the next state election. Now enemies are trawling his columns for ammunition and finding words that could come back to haunt him. One of them pointed Crikey to a June 2008 column in which he states: “If a woman is flirting or wearing a short skirt or drinking too much she never deserves or ‘asks’ to be raped. But women need to ask themselves if their binge drinking behaviour puts them at risk. The answer is yes, it does.” King also drew fire in 2007 for a piece comparing George W. Bush with Saddam Hussein. Twitter trolls have been linking out.

The former investment banker and student editor has reported extensively from Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and was an awarded correspondent for The Centralian Advocate. He told his paper last week the state was facing serious issues and he “can no longer just observe and write about them from the sidelines”.

Queensland’s battle of the Bobs. Bob Irwin might reconsider joining the Queensland Party again if it survives the current upheaval, we hear. It seems he doesn’t like Bob Katter and his support for indigenous rights like hunting dugongs and turtles. He left because he couldn’t stomach the idea of working with Katter — but if the Queensland Party can pull together 500 members by Friday and remain registered then he might come back and stand as a candidate for Ashgrove.

Fairfax: and the survey says … Fairfax asked its staff what they thought of how the place was going. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t pretty. An insider at Melbourne HQ reveals:

“The staff surveys were handed out on the day that the subeditors were fired, so morale wasn’t exactly great to start with. Everyone at The Age and The Sunday Age was encouraged to do it. The survey asked specific questions, such as ‘do you trust the company to do the right thing?’ and ‘does the company know what it’s doing and does it communicate this?’ and ‘does the company care about me as an individual?’

“All of the responses to these questions were firmly in the negative, at around 60% of responses. The management wasn’t left in any doubt as to how staff think they have performed. The results were presented to us in a Powerpoint and there was a seminar where staff could voice their opinions.

“None of it was exactly surprising — people said that they are sick of the corporate speak and jargon and the way the changes have been handled. There were complaints about the promises to spend money on editorial, only for these promises to be followed by cuts everywhere. None of those complaints are new, but it was confirmation of what staff feel has gone wrong at the company.

“There’s a lot of cynicism within the company and that has been fuelled by how they have handled things. But people did appreciate that they did this survey and then sat down to open up and cop the criticism. They seemed serious in getting everyone’s views, which is encouraging. But the real question is, where does it go from here?”

Koval hanging in at Radio National. It seemed a strange coincidence that ever since Radio National’s popular Book Show host Ramona Koval launched a scathing attack on proposed schedule changes at the broadcaster — threatening that she was “considering my options” — that she hasn’t appeared on radio since. But we’re assured there’s no hard feelings (at least on the side of management) and her leave had been pre-arranged. She’s off air for more weeks yet, with guest presenters to be announced later today.

ABC outsourcing debate misses mark. Debate rages inside and outside the ABC over outsourcing production. An independent supplier to Aunty offers the following insight:

“It is clear that there are many genres which are easily outsourced for a cheaper price by the private sector. Light entertainment is one of them. The Collectors could clearly be made more cheaply by a private company for example. Not least because the independent sector’s employees are governed by a different Union, the MEAA, on an award scale which is less favourable than that of the CPSU. The footy could be outsourced too. Drama is best outsourced and its success is completely determined by ABC management which commissions it. So the poor reception of Crownies is completely controlled by the ABC’s commissioning editor and the commissioning team including the programmer.

“Beyond the self-interest of the various parties the real question should be how the ABC can lift its game in terms of excellence of content while refining a hybrid production model. It is here that ABC management has been failing. It continues to have a low level of accountability, little transparency and an incoherent vision. Extra money may mean more content but does not mean better content without a team with a coherent vision that drives excellence while protecting the ABC’s broad and non-commercial charter. I think it is called leadership.”

Build a new airport, save the environment. An aviation insider informs us aircraft delayed by the Sydney Airport bottleneck have to burn 30% more fuel in flight to catch up the schedule. “Perhaps,” they quip, “there is an easy way for Australia to meet its greenhouse gas reductions.”

Liberals’ bronzed Aussie hero. You report, you decide: “Is Tony Abbott a closet Jersey Shore fan? His tan at the presser after voting down the migration law changes was a little too similar to that of the Guido and Guidettes from the popular holiday locale. Gillard has hired an image consultant — perhaps Tony has enlisted the support of the infamous Snooki?” Perhaps.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey